Limerick have secured 14 PwC All-Star hurling nominations for the flawless 2020 season, one less than their previous All-Ireland winning year in 2018.
All but one of the team that started the All-Ireland final win over Waterford, who have picked up 10, are included in the 45, which will be whittled down to 15 for an awards show pencilled in for Saturday, February 20 on RTÉ.
The presence of four strong All-Star contenders in midfield - Jamie Barron, Tony Kelly, Cian Lynch and Will O’Donoghue - would suggest two impressive candidates might miss out. However, All-Star selectors have the authority to move players into other areas for the actual All-Stars selection process. Getting the 45 nominees right is the imperative of the committee regardless of positioning.
That might mean hurler of the year candidate Kelly, who will vie for the gong he last won in 2013 with Limerick’s Gearóid Hegarty and Waterford’s Stephen Bennett, could be switched into the forward line and/or Lynch, who lined out there at centre-forward for several games in the Championship.
Darragh O’Donovan is the one Limerick player not to make the All-Stars long list although he started only one SHC game prior to the All-Ireland semi-final win over Galway as he returned from injury.
Twelve of the 14 Limerick men selected were All-Star nominees in 2018 - Nickie Quaid, Seán Finn, Dan Morrissey, Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Kyle Hayes, Cian Lynch, Hegarty, Tom Morrissey, Aaron Gillane, Seamus Flanagan and Graeme Mulcahy. Finn, who is aiming for his third consecutive All-Star, was also nominated in 2019 along with Lynch, O’Donoghue, Hayes, Gillane and Mulcahy.
All-Ireland and Munster runners-up Waterford’s 10 nominations is also one shy of their haul the last time they reached the All-Ireland final in 2017. Once more, Tadhg de Búrca, Jamie Barron and Austin Gleeson are in the mix.
Like Mayo’s David Clarke, goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe has been acknowledged despite announcing his intentions to sit out this coming season. Conor Prunty, along with the other three All-Ireland semi-final captains, is nominated and he is joined by fellow defenders Shane McNulty, de Búrca and Calum Lyons. Their collection is completed by two-time All-Star Barron, Bennett, former hurler of the year Austin Gleeson, Jack Fagan and Dessie Hutchinson.
Despite losing the Leinster final to Kilkenny, Galway have recorded more nominations than the Cats, seven as opposed to five. Daithí Burke, aiming for his fifth All-Star, has company in the Mannion brothers Cathal and Pádraig, goalscoring hero against Tipperary Aidan Harte, former hurler of the year Joe Canning who is looking for a sixth All-Star, Brian Concannon and Conor Whelan. Kilkenny’s five, the same number as they had in 2018, features captain TJ Reid, John Donnelly, Conor Browne, Conor Delaney and Pádraig Walsh.
Munster teams dominate the awards with all five competing counties represented and the province boasting 34 of the 45 total. After the finalists, Clare have the biggest return with four - Kelly, debutant goalkeeper Eibhear Quilligan, Rory Hayes and Cathal Malone.
For the second year in a row, Cork pick up two nominations - Mark Coleman and Shane Kingston. Their duo last year was Alan Cadogan and Patrick Horgan. Tipperary also secure two - Ronan Maher and Michael Breen.
Donal Burke is Dublin’s sole nominee.
Five of the 2019 All-Stars 15 are in with a shout this time - Finn, Maher, Walsh, Reid and Gillane. After Canning, Reid like Daithí Burke is in line for a fifth All-Star as Barron, Finn, Maher, Pádraig Mannion and Walsh seek a third.
The young hurler of the year (U21) nominations are Eoin Cody (Shamrocks, Kilkenny), Jake Morris (Nenagh Éire Óg, Tipperary) and Iarlaith Daly (Lismore, Waterford). Like the footballers, the hurler and young hurler of the year nominees are decided by the selection committee with the player body voting from the three in each list.
The best hurlers of 2020 will be revealed on the awards show on February 20. The Joe McDonagh Cup team of last year will be selected separately as well as a Champions 15 for the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups.
2020: All-Star Hurling Nominations
Nickie Quaid (Limerick); Stephen O’Keeffe (Waterford); Eibhear Quilligan (Clare).
Diarmaid Byrnes, Seán Finn, Declan Hannon, Kyle Hayes, Dan Morrissey, Barry Nash (all Limerick); Tadhg de Búrca, Calum Lyons, Shane McNulty, Conor Prunty (all Waterford); Daithí Burke, Aidan Harte, Pádraic Mannion (all Galway); Conor Delaney, Pádraig Walsh (both Kilkenny); Rory Hayes (Clare); Mark Coleman (Cork); Ronan Maher (Tipperary).
Cian Lynch, Will O’Donoghue (both Limerick); Jamie Barron (Waterford); Tony Kelly (Clare); Conor Browne (Kilkenny); Michael Breen (Tipperary).
Seamus Flanagan, Aaron Gillane, Gearóid Hegarty, Tom Morrissey, Graeme Mulcahy (all Limerick); Stephen Bennett, Jack Fagan, Austin Gleeson, Dessie Hutchinson (all Waterford); Joe Canning, Brian Concannon, Cathal Mannion, Conor Whelan (all Galway); John Donnelly, TJ Reid (both Kilkenny); Cathal Malone (Clare); Shane Kingston (Cork); Donal Burke (Dublin).
Limerick 14; Waterford 10; Galway 7; Kilkenny 5; Clare 4; Cork, Tipperary both 2, Dublin 1.
Gearóid Hegarty (Limerick); Stephen Bennett (Waterford); Tony Kelly (Clare).
Eoin Cody (Kilkenny); Jake Morris (Tipperary); Iarlaith Daly (Waterford).